The Imitation of Christ (or De imitatione Christi), by Thomas à Kempis, is a widely read Christian spiritual book. It was first published anonymously, in Latin, in 1418; several other authors have been proposed, but Kempis’ authorship is now generally accepted.
The work is a manual of devotion intended to assist the soul with its pursuit of holiness and communion with God. Its sentences are statements, not arguments, and are pitched in the highest key of Christian experience. Behind and within all its reflections runs the counsel of self-renunciation.
The life of Christ is presented as the highest study possible to a mortal, as Jesus’ teachings far excel all the teachings of the saints. The book gives counsel to read the scriptures, statements about the uses of adversity, advice for submission to authority, warnings against temptation and how to resist it, reflections about death and the judgment, meditations upon the oblation of Christ, and admonitions to flee the vanities of the world.
What makes it acceptable to most Christians is the supreme emphasis it lays upon Christ and the possibility of immediate communion with him and God.
“The religious who meditates devoutly on the most holy life and passion of our Lord will find all that he needs to make his life worthwhile. In fact, he has no need to go beyond Jesus, for he will discover nothing better. If Jesus Crucified would come into our hearts, how quickly and perfectly we would be instructed in the spiritual life.” – Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Book I: Chapter 25)
Meditation on the Spiritual Life – Only the Bible has been more influential as a source of Christian devotional reading than The Imitation of Christ. This meditation on the spiritual life…written by the Augustinian monk Thomas à Kempis between 1420 and 1427, contains clear instructions for renouncing worldly vanities and locating eternal truths. No book has more explicitly and movingly described the Christian ideal, “My son, to the degree that you can leave yourself behind, to that degree will you be able to enter into me.” – (From the Book’s Back Cover)
Chapter 1: The Imitation of Christ and Contempt for the Vanities of the World – “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,” says the Lord. These are Christ’s own words by which He exhorts us to imitate His life and His ways, if we truly desire to be enlightened and free of all blindness of heart. Let it then be our main concern to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.
About the Author : Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471)
Author of The Imitation of Christ; Thomas was an Augustinian Monk, and a Disciple of Gerard Groot. Thomas was a member of Groot’s Brethren of the Common Life, and a proponent of Groot’s teachings, called The Devotio Moderna, of which The Imitation of Christ is the best example.